OK. I admit it. For the longest time I hated rosé wine. Well, maybe hate is too strong a word. I guess I should say that in recent years I’ve avoided drinking rosé. In fact, my aversion to this style of wine was so strong, that for years I was fond of saying “I never met a rosé that I liked”. Guess it goes back to my youth when I drank far too many inexpensive sweet rose wines in college. Curse you Mateus! A few years ago, after tasting some of the rosatos crafted by Christopher Tracy over at Channing Daughters, my opinion began to change.
Being a Long Island wine fanatic, I’m out east pretty much every week. While I have my favorites, I want to experience the depth and breadth of what Long Island has to offer, so I try and make the rounds and visit each of the wineries, breweries and various tasting rooms at some point during the year. For years, I avoided going to Croteaux Vineyards, which specializes in rosé wines and is a popular destination during the summer when their beautiful tasting garden is open. The fact that Croteaux is only open seasonally had something to do with it. But the main reason for my negligence was my personal bias towards rosé.
So a few years ago in late winter, at the urging of friends who were already big fans of Croteaux, I decided to head out to Harbor Road in Southold on a cold winter day in early March to see what all the excitement was about. Croteaux, whose vineyards occupy the land that once belonged to two historic North Fork Farms produces dry rosé wine, both still and sparkling. Not only is Croteaux the only winery on Long Island doing only rosé (or as they say “Rosé On Purpose“), but they are the only vineyard in the United States dedicated exclusively to the production of rosé.
Croteaux offers two tastings: Rosé and Sparkling Rosé. It was early in the season and the three sparkling wines had not yet been bottled, so I had to settle for the six still wines. Nora, who works in the tasting room, started me out with the three Merlot-based rosés: 181 and 314 (the numbers refer to clones) and the third which was a blend of all three Merlot clones. Much to my surprise they were all quite delicious. I especially liked the 314, medium-bodied with hints of citrus, which paired well with the basket of bread and cheese that I ordered. Next up were the premium rosés: Chloe (made from Sauvignon Blanc), Saurvage 181 (Merlot-based and fermented in wild yeast) and my personal favorite, the Jolie (a delicious Cabernet Franc which had hints of dark chocolate, black cherries and juniper).
I was absolutely blown away by these wines. They weren’t just good, they were great. Kudos to owners Michael and Paula Croteau for their successful vision of creating a Provencal winery on Long Island, where you are transported both mind and soul to the South of France. So, the conversion process that began at Channing was complete: I am now officially a lover of rosé. I left the tasting room that visit not only with a couple of bottles of the Jolie, but with the contentment of somebody who had just seen the light. After vowing to return so I could sample the sparkling rosé and enjoy their wines in the comfort of their summer garden (which I have done repeatedly since that first visit), I got in my car and headed back home. As I was driving, I couldn’t help but start singing a twist on the John Lennon song on the ride home: “All we are saying, is give rosé a chance”